Lausanne, June 2, 2008 - The final “tune-up” prior to a stretch of four-straight SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam events starts Monday in Poland when the Hotel Anders in Stare Jablonki hosts its first double gender Beach Volleyball event after staging men's events the past four years.
The US$350,000 GE Money Bank Mazury Open is the second of seven double gender events in Europe through a stop in France near the end of July that will feature qualifying for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Other tournaments will be in Berlin, Paris, Norway and Moscow before the final Summer Games qualifier in Marseille July 14-20.
After hosting the women's SWATCH FIVB World Tour in Warsaw the past two seasons where teams from China and Brazil captured the gold medals, the competition has moved to Stare Jablonki to be held in conjunction with the fifth annual men's event on the Hotel Anders courts where reigning Olympic champions Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil return to defend their title.
With over 160 men's and women's teams from 42 countries entering the GE Money Bank Mazury Open (as of June 1, 2008), the Hotel Anders event will be the largest international Beach Volleyball event to be held in Poland, which will stage a women's only tournament in Myslowice September 2-7. Myslowice has hosted the FIVB youth and junior world Beach Volleyball championships the past two seasons.
Countries entering teams this week in Stare Jablonki are Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, the Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Ukraine, the United States and Venezuela.
At the latest SWATCH FIVB World Tour stop this past week in Spain, teams from Germany and the United States captured gold medals at the inaugural event in Barcelona as both tandems defeated teams from Russia and Brazil for the titles at the Placa Carles Buigas on the steps in front of the National Museum of Art of Catalunya.
In the first Barcelona finale Saturday, 38-year old Elaine Youngs became the oldest women to win a SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal as she teamed with American partner Nicole Branagh to defeat Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro of Brazil 21-18 and 21-14.
Youngs and Branagh also became the second team in the 17-year history of the women's tour to win five-straight elimination matches to reach the semi-finals where the Americans defeated two Brazilian teams in the "final four" round. During their run in the contender's bracket, Branagh and Youngs scored two more wins over Brazilian pairs.
The Barcelona men's finale was the first All-European finale of the season as Julius Brink and Christoph Dieckmann scored a 22-20, 13-21 and 16-14 victory in 63 minutes over Igor Kolodinsky and Dmitri Barsouk of Russia. With Barcelona being the 214th SWATCH FIVB World Tour men's event since the start of the international Beach Volleyball circuit in 1987, Sunday's finale was only the ninth All-European finale.
The GE Money Bank Mazury Open will be the 23rd of 28 Beijing qualifying events for women and the 24th of 29 qualifying events for men. Depending on the number of entries per country, the Hotel Anders top will feature Country Quota matches on Monday for women and Tuesday for men. The qualifiers will be Tuesday for women and Wednesday for men to determine the final eight Main Draw spots. The "money" rounds begin Wednesday for women and Thursday for men with the medal matches being played Saturday for women and Sunday for men as each gold medal team shares the $28,000 first-place prizes.